MEXICO CITY – The fall of the iconic Angel of Independence lingers in Mexicans’ collective memory as the most striking image of the earthquake that shook the capital city 60 years ago on Friday.
The magnitude-7.9 temblor struck at 2:43 am on Sunday, July 28, 1957.
While the epicenter was some 380 kilometers (230 miles) away in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero, the quake toppled buildings in Mexico City, leaving dozens dead.
“The sight of the Angel on the ground was truly traumatic, much more so than the deaths and destruction,” sociologist and historian Carlos Martinez Assad told EFE.
“When people learned that the Angel fell, it was like in 1985, which at first people could not believe the tragedy,” he said, referring to the Sept. 19, 1985 earthquake that killed at least 5,000 people in Mexico City.
Martinez Assad, a researcher emeritus with the National Autonomous University of Mexico, is the author of the 2005 book “La Patria en el Paseo de la Reforma,” which describes the effects of the 1957 earthquake.
Contemporaneous photos show people trying to make off with pieces of the Angel, believing that the statue was made of gold, when it was actually bronze with gold plating.
The impact of the fall broke the statue’s head and right arm, which sculptor Jose Fernandez Urbina remade in a course of a year-long restoration.
The restored Angel was formally inaugurated on Sept. 16, 1958.